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ERDA, Van Bramer give turkeys to Queensbridge

Joel Berg (c.) says at a Queensbridge Thanksgiving turkey giveaway that Queens food pantries are seeing higher demand while funding has been limited. ERDA Founder Bishop Mitchell Taylor (l.-r.), Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer and the Rev. Dr. Bobby Moore, of the Astoria Baptist Church, join him. Photo by Rebecca Henely
TimesLedger Newspapers

East River Development Alliance founder Bishop Mitchell Taylor and City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) distributed 1,000 turkeys to public housing residents last week for Thanksgiving, but bemoaned the face that they could not do more.

“I hate this,” Taylor said while standing in front of a line of people waiting to get into the Bread of Life Pantry, at 38-49 12th St. “I hate that people stand in line.”

Taylor and Van Bramer said Nov. 22 they were distributing 500 turkeys to the residents of Queensbridge Houses, at 21st Street and 40th Avenue, and Astoria Houses, at Astoria Boulevard and 8th Street.

Van Bramer had also distributed another 500 turkeys to Queensbridge the previous day through a partnership with the Koppel Auto Group, which has locations throughout western Queens.

“Definitely going to be a big help,” said Steven Carroll, 47, who received a turkey and other food from the pantry. “More places should be doing this.”

Van Bramer said more people this year are making use of food pantries, but less federal aid has been going to those pantries.

“It should be a clarion call to everyone in Queens, this city, this state, this nation,” he said.

Joel Berg, executive director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, said 95.6 percent of Queens food pantries said they faced increased demand compared to last year and that of those 51 percent said the demand had grown “greatly.”

He added that from 2008 to 2010, one in four children in New York City did not have an adequate supply of food, an increase from 2005-07, when one in five children did not have an adequate supply of food. Meanwhile, 40 percent of funding has been cut from the federal Emergency Food and Shelter program.

Both Van Bramer and Berg said they were in favor of reinstating the millionaire’s tax to help offset these cuts as well as doing away with requiring those on food stamps to be fingerprinted.

“We are dead set against fraud,” Berg said. “It doesn’t reduce fraud.”

Dozens came to the food pantries for turkeys Nov. 22, but Taylor said this was a drop in the bucket for many. He said a woman had come into ERDA’s credit union last week asking to take out a loan to pay for her holiday celebration.

“You can see the outcome of the recession,” Taylor said.

He said he hoped next year to deliver 8,000 turkeys to local families in public housing, one for every apartment.

Debra Munger, 53, who waited an hour and 20 minutes to get her turkey from the pantry, said she wished the doors had opened earlier and that a person handling the line was rude, but she was nevertheless grateful.

“I just think it’s a good thing that they’re doing this because this community here is poverty-stricken,” she said.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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